|This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.|
This week’s Tuesday Blog, an edition of our ongoing series Vinyl’s Revenge, features Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This, in s way, serves as a teaser for mire Mahler symphonies coming our way this Fall.
In past blog posts, I have made references to my favourite Mahler symphony cycles on record, and undoubtedly point to the excellent set recorded for DG by Rafael Kubelik and his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the 1960’s and 70’s. In my vinyl collection, I own the first, second, fourth and today’s featured fifth – and own the entire set in my digital collection.
It would be somewhat presumptuous of me to dare provide a big hand, small map look at Mahler’s symphonies – a few years ago, there were posts by a fellow TC’er who provided very insightful comments on all of his symphonies. Suffice it to say that Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7, which all belong to this period, have much in common and are markedly different from the first four, which all have strong links to vocal music – and in particular to Des Knaben Wunderhorn; his later symphonies are much more ambitious, very Brucknerian in their scope.
What is also important to remember is that the fifth was the first major work Mahler composed after his marriage, and that his wife Alma provided some technical support, sometimes doing the full orchestration of significant passages with only sparse indications on her hurband’s manuscripts – at least, this is what she claimed in her memoirs.
Structurally, the work is in five movements, though Mahler liked to think of it in three parts, with the scherzo (third movement) sandwiched between two parts (formed by the first two and final two movements, respectfully). The fourth movement Adagietto may be Mahler's most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of his works; It is said to represent Mahler's love song to his wife Alma. Leonard Bernstein conducted it during the funeral Mass for Robert F. Kennedy at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Manhattan, on 8 June 1968, and it was used in the 1971 Luchino Visconti film Death in Venice.
The reviews I have read of this performance are mixed, but I’d like to point out that Kubelik’s Mahler set shouldn’t be judged solely on the individual performances standing alone, but rather in the context of the entire cycle. I find that Kubelik’s approach is sincere and the play of the orchestra – and of the trumpet soloist in particular – is superb. I remain quite partial to this rendition – I hope you will agree!
Gustav MAHLE (1860-1911)
Symphony no. 5 in C-Sharp Minor (1901-02)
Symphonie-Orchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Rafael Kubelik, conducting
Deutsche Grammophon – 2543 535
Format: Vinyl, LP
Released: 1983 (Original recording, 1971)
Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/603GustavMahlerSymphonyNo.5